Look North for the Wright stuff

Who says Canada does not produce high level basketball players? A few minutes Mississauga, Ontario, forward Ryan Wright battling in the paint, followed by a session on the perimeter draining jumpers, will toss all geographic stereotypes out the window. His star is rising quickly.

Though we have been reporting on the 2005 recruiting class since last summer, that does not mean we have discovered all the best talents available to Stanford recruiting among the rising seniors. As a case in point, we have just recently seen an explosion of opinion and activity on Canadian power forward Ryan Wright, who a little more than a month ago was not even in TheInsiders Scout™ Database. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound athlete from Mississauga in Ontario flew under the recruiting radar as a hidden talent north of the border. Today he is climbing quickly in the estimation of recruiting analysts and college coaches alike. His athleticism and academic acumen have him high on the Cardinal coaching staff's wish list.

Stanford actually was writing and communicating with the Wright family as far back as last November and December. But without a chance to evaluate the Loyola Catholic Secondary School standout during the winter, that interest petered off. Wright broke out in a big way late last month at the NBA Players Camp, where he showed as one of the best players at the Top 100 invitational event in Richmond, Va. Dave Telep jumped on board and just this week debuted Wright at No. 55 in TheInsiders Top 100 rankings for the 2005 class. However, Wright first emerged onto the American scene two months earlier at the Charlie Weber tournament in Washington D.C. in April. According to father Michael Wright, that is when Stanford's interest dramatically spiked.

"I've talked quite a bit with [Stanford assistant] Tony Fuller," Michael Wright said. "Then the first Monday of the calling period the other week, Trent Johnson called and we spoke for 45 minutes. They both sound very excited to recruit Ryan."

The Wright men have enough interest in the Cardinal that they took a swing through the West Coast a few days ago. They went to UCLA where Ryan camped Monday and Tuesday. The duo drove up to Stanford Tuesday night and spent all of Wednesday unofficially visiting the campus.

"Obviously Stanford is unsurpassed in academics and basketball," Michael Wright said. "The coaches have sent us the application forms and we need to get some references. It's hard to translate Ryan's grades to a GPA, but he has an 'A' average - high 3's if not a 4."

"I feel good about doing the application," Ryan Wright said, "as long as I'm academically eligible. I don't know what SAT score I need. I got a 1060 on the SAT my second time, but I'll take it a third time if they need it."

"They're really high on my list," Ryan continues. "Stanford of course is great for academics, but I also had the chance to see them play a lot this year since they were ranked No. 1. It looks like they have a lot of spots available for me to play, with Justin Davis graduating and now Josh Childress getting drafted. I'm really interested in them right now. They have a big-time reputation and send guys to the [NBA]."

Michael Wright says that their top five are Stanford, UCLA, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin. "Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech are on the bubble," he adds. His son says Illinois is on his mind as well, rounding out the top eight. The Mississauga men have now taken four unofficial trips, not coincidentally to four of the top five schools. That fifth is Wisconsin, and they plan on visiting Madison at the end of August. The trip might come sooner if not for the deluge of basketball activity between now and then.

Ryan Wright is about to head to Indianapolis for the Nike All-American Camp, followed by the Nike All-Canadian Camp. He will travel with the Ontario Cyclones later in the month to play in the Reebok Big Time in Las Vegas. Wright returns home after that to play much of August with his provincial team in the Under-17 National Championships.

The Loyola Catholic standout and his family are willing to be patient in this process, with only the stated goal of a decision before the November signing period. After they visited Michigan and Michigan State unofficially in June, there were reports saying that the pair of Big Ten schools held a decisive lead for the Canadian's services. Both father and son talk as if they are more open than that.

"Having seen Michigan and Michigan State made us realize how important it was to take unofficial visits to these schools," Michael explains. "I don't think anyone has an advantage right now. We won't make a decision until we talk with everyone and investigate these options fully. We will hold out on a decision, even if it means that Ryan misses out on a couple opportunities. We will not be rushed into this. Ryan might even use a couple of his official visits after he narrows down his list to a top three or so."

As the question of distance, with a pair of Golden State schools battling a pair of Great Lake State schools, Michael Wright offers advantages for each. "We might like him to be close to home, but if he goes four hours away, he might as well go 10 hours away," Michael said. "We are interested in California because Ryan comes from a multi-cultural society, and he could be more comfortable there than perhaps one of the Southern states."

Both the father and son talk about playing time and quality of developmental coaching as important factors they are scrutinizing at the schools. That means looking closely at depth charts and other offers/commits on thre recruiting boards. Beyond that, the younger Wright is keen on finding a group of peers with whom he can grow on and off the court.

"The most important thing for me is that I have to like the guys," he declares. "They're who I'll spend most of my time with. I also need to like the coaches and what they will do with me. The campus will be something I look at, as well as the facilities - I'd like to see what they have available to help the student-athlete at each school."

As far as options, it appears that this Canuck can choose his school. He has explicit offers from all his favorites, except Michigan and Stanford. The Cardinal are unique because they require the student-athlete to apply to the school and gain admission - not a trivial task. As for the Wolverines, Wright's father has this to say:

"Michigan says that if he wants to commit to them, then they have a spot for him. They don't use the 'offer' language though. They are just not quite as blatant in saying so."

Dress it however you want, but that is an effective offer. I would have to believe that Stanford will have an offer if and when Wright can get admitted to the school. you can put check marks all the way down this recruit's school list, with the ability to commit anywhere among his favorites right now.

To understand how such a recently evaluated forward can earn that type of power, you only need dig into his basketball story. As Michael Wright so delicately describes, "Mississauga competition isn't that great. Ryan is really developing right now with the American competition."

On his high school team, Wright is the tallest player and was used as a center/forward. He dominated in the low post, averaging a double-double this past winter with 18 points and 11 boards per game, to go with four blocks and three assists. Wright wanted to push his game further from the basket and develop face-up skills. He sees himself as a combo forward at the wing or high post, who can also go inside.

Previously shooting 10 to 15 feet from the basket, the Canadian talent now has comfort 18 feet to beyond the three-point line. At a recent event that pitted the Ontario All-Stars against a group of Pennsylvania All-Stars, he competed in a three-point competition. Wright drained a dozen shots behind the arc in a minute.

His ballhandling has improved as well as his shooting, which is starting to give him multiple weapons from the high post. With good athleticism, long arms, soft hands and a strong work ethic, he has a high ceiling. Forget the label of "Canadian" player right now; this is an elite recruit. His unofficial visit on Wednesday to The Farm is big news, so look for a report soon after we can reach him and his father for a full download.

This story originally published on TheBootleg.com

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